Journal Entry

Tuesday, June 7, 2011

Letter to Syria (Updated)

Update: Or maybe not. Heroes of the internet Liz Henry, Andy Carvin, Electronic Intifada et al. have in the meantime exposed Amina as a hoax by some jerk. Check out Minal's post as well.


I have been following the fascinating, inspiring, and beautiful writing of Syrian blogger and democracy activist Amina Arraf (who is an out lesbian and devout Muslim) ever since this post. She has been on the run for the last several weeks, and now the arrest that her fans have been dreading has come to pass.

Now is the time for quick action by the international (and internet) community. According to Reporters Without Borders, in the case of 19-year-old imprisoned blogger Tal al-Mallouhi, "Netizens from around the world mobilised....international attention was probably also a contributing factor to her appearance before a court in November 2010, after she had been held in an unknown location for nearly eleven months."

Here is the text of my email to the Syrian Embassy in Washington, DC, which I sent to consular@syrembassy.net and theambassador@syrembassy.net:


His Excellency Dr. Imad Moustapha, Ambassador of Syria

Dear Dr. Moustapha:

As a US citizen and someone following with great interest the events in your country, I was very distressed to hear of the kidnapping of prominent blogger Amina Abdallah Araf al Omari. Ms. Araf's was a consistent voice for tolerance, peaceful protest, religious diversity, and progress in Syria. In her writings, she has been manifestly opposed to foreign intervention or meddling in Syria's affairs, and to armed conflict of any kind. She is a Syrian patriot and a staunch supporter of a free, democratic, secular Syria. Her blog has touched, educated and inspired countless readers.

Please tell me what you are doing to determine Ms. Araf's location and to ensure her speedy and safe release. I ask that you do everything you can to ensure the release of Ms. Araf and all peaceful protesters currently detained. As you write on the Embassy's home page, "a clear distinction must be made between citizens demanding their legitimate rights versus militants pursuing the bleak path towards destruction and insecurity." Ms. Araf is manifestly in the former category, and her speedy release will be a critical and important sign of Syria's seriousness of intent in responding to the current situation with honor and justice, and within international norms.

I understand that Ms. Araf is also a dual US and Syrian citizen, and thus her health and safety is of special concern to the US government and all Americans.

Thank you for your kind attention, and I look forward to hearing your response.

Sincerely yours,

Benjamin Rosenbaum

Whether or not you agree with all of Amina's opinions, she is a voice of intelligence, sanity, peace, and freedom. Please do what you can.

Posted by benrosen at June 7, 2011 05:37 AM | Up to blog
Comments

Thank you for alerting me to this sad story and sharing something I can do in response. I hope Amina will be returned safely, soon.

Posted by: Matthew Gatheringwater at June 7, 2011 05:59 AM

Thanks for writing this, Benjamin. I'm trying to find out the details of the Syrian Embassy in Australia and rewriting this with that in mind.

Posted by: Peter Hollo at June 7, 2011 08:42 AM

Thank you for writing this! It is inspirational, I really would not have known what and how to do it :)

Posted by: Leel at June 7, 2011 10:20 AM

Benjamin, thank you for this.

For UK people, there is a contact form on the Syrian embassy website here and the ambassador's name is Dr Sami Khiyami. Here is a version of Benjamin's message, edited to remove parts specific to the USA:

Dear Dr Khiyami,

As a UK citizen and someone following with great interest the events in your country, I was very distressed to hear of the kidnapping of prominent blogger Amina Abdalla Araf al Omani. Ms. Araf's is a consistent voice for tolerance, peaceful protest, religious diversity, and progress in Syria. In her writings, she has been manifestly opposed to foreign intervention or meddling in Syria's affairs, and to armed conflict of any kind. She is a Syrian patriot and a staunch supporter of a free, democratic, secular Syria. Her blog has touched, educated and inspired countless readers around the world.

Please tell me what you are doing to determine Ms. Araf's location and to ensure her speedy and safe release, as well as that of all peaceful protesters currently detained. The speedy release of Ms. Araf will be a critical and important sign of Syria's seriousness of intent in responding to the current situation with honour and justice, and within international norms.

Thank you for your kind attention, and I look forward to hearing your response.

Sincerely yours,

Posted by: Nine at June 7, 2011 11:11 AM

In response to 'Nine', thank you for the UK version. However, her name is 'Amina Abdallah Araf al Omari', not 'Amina Abdalla Araf al Omani'. :o)

Posted by: CressidaJL at June 7, 2011 08:59 PM

It took me a while to dig out a better e-mail than info for the Australian Embassy. ambassador@syrianembassy.org.au should work so much is going on in Syria it makes me fall into a bit of a daze!

The Syrian Ambassador to Australia is not currently in Australia. Mr Jawdat ALI is the Chargé d'Affaires http://protocol.dfat.gov.au/Mission/view.rails?id=192

He can be referred to as Mr (as he is not extraordinary or plenipotentiary)

Chargé d'affaires—a diplomatic agent accredited by letter to the Minister of Foreign Affairs or Secretary of State of one country by his/her counterpart in lieu of a duly accredited ambassador (from http://www.au.af.mil/au/awc/awcgate/state/protocol_for_diplomats.pdf)

Posted by: Liz Argall at June 7, 2011 11:44 PM

Thank you for such a thoughtful posting. Hope it's okay I'm copying the letter to email the ambassador too.

Posted by: Anne at June 8, 2011 05:18 PM

There was a major article on Amina Arraf on page A13 of the June 8, Washington Post. That might hep her............... maybe.

Posted by: dmr at June 9, 2011 06:33 AM

FYI,
http://www.npr.org/blogs/thetwo-way/2011/06/12/137139179/gay-girl-in-damascus-apologizes-reveals-she-was-an-american-man?sc=fb&cc=fp

Posted by: jamesG at June 13, 2011 01:52 AM

Oops.

Posted by: Benjamin Rosenbaum at June 13, 2011 12:21 PM
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